I have a ham bone cluttering up my freeze and I wanted to make a rich ham and bean soup. I have made something like it before, but I thought I would push this recipe a bit further and add some new ingredients. To go with my soup, I thought some beer bread and a cold green bean salad would be good.
Many of the bean soup recipes on-line call for adding flour or potato starch to thicken the broth. I have always mashed a few beans against the side of the pot. This releases enough bean starch to thicken the broth without adding any off flavors. It is all about the ham and beans.
Karl’s Ham and Navy Bean Soup
1 ham bone, with a fair amount of meat left
1 onion, chopped finely
2 stalks celery, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, grated
½ tsp. Kosher salt
6 cloves garlic, separate uses
1 tsp. marjoram
1 lb. navy beans (about 2 cups)
1 Tbs. dried parsley
Black pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. fresh celery leaves, minced
1. Put the ham bone in a large pot and cover it with water—about 10-12 cups. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Tip: I prefer to make my ham stock the day before.
Note: If you do not have a ham bone, use 1 large ham hock and some ham steak.
2. After half an hour, cut away the majority of the ham on the bone. When it is cool enough to handle, chop into small bite sized pieces and reserve.
Tip: You want about 2 cups of meat. If there is not enough, cut up some ham steak or bacon.
3. Return the ham bone to the pot and continue simmering for one to five hours.
4. Remove the bone and strain the ham stock.
Tip: Refrigerating the stock, overnight, allows the fat float the top and congeal. You may then skim off any you feel is excess or reserve it to sauté your vegetables instead of butter or oil.
Note: You should have about 6-8 cups of ham broth when you are finished. After it is refrigerated it will be more of a ham jelly, rather than a liquid, because of all of the disolved collagen from the cartilage in the ham bone.
5. At least four hours before dinner, sort and rinse your beans.
Tip: Let the beans sit submerged in water for two minutes and gently scrub them with your hands. You are not trying to break the hulls, just to free any dirt sticking to them. Rinse the beans a second time, to make sure they are clean.
6. Put the beans in a soup pot with 8 cups of ham stock.
Tip: If you do not have enough stock add water or chicken broth.
Note: This is the quick soak method. Many cooks prefer to soak the beans in salted cold water overnight and to then to discard the soaking water before cooking their beans. I believe that you lose valuable nutrients that way and you certainly do not need so much salt.
7. Bring the pot to a full boil, stir once and cover. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for one hour.
8. Drain the beans into a bowl and transfer the beans back into the pot. Measure the ham broth back into the pot and add water, chicken broth or beer to make at least six cups of liquid. Set the beans and liquid aside.
9. Add two tablespoons of the reserved pork fat to the soup pot over a medium heat and sauté the onions, celery, and carrot with the salt until they just start picking up some color.
Tip: I soak my beans in one pot and I use a Dutch oven for my final cooking of the beans. The heavy cast iron pot makes for a good presentation.
10. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot and add three minced cloves of garlic to the hole in the center. Sauté them for one minute more and then mix in the rest of the vegetables.
11. Add the beans and ham broth, and marjoram to the pot and bring it to a boil.
12. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours.
Tip: You can do this on the stove top, but I always prefer to put my pot in a low oven (325º F). The heat is more even and there is no chance of scorching the beans on the bottom. Burnt beans bad soup.
13. Crush about a quarter cup of beans against the side of the pot and stir them into the soup.
14. Add the reserved meat, the remaining 3 minced cloves of garlic, the parsley, and pepper as needed. Cover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes more, until the beans are tender.
Tip: It should not need more salt, but add more if you wish.
15. Serve, garnished with finely chopped celery leaves, with salad and beer bread on the side.